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Episode 1555

Mystery Drawer

Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment: find a monarch caterpillar. The result? A memorable lesson in the miracle of metamorphosis...

Episode 1578

Today I Learned

Youngsters want to know: What’s the difference between barely and nearly, and what’s so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some misunderstandings from when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Kids do come up with some...

Episode 1538

Little Shavers

The word hipster might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s when it referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it’s...

Episode 1529

At First Blush

Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spanish-language adventure novel, an account of 19th-century dictionary wars, and a gorgeously illustrated...

Episode 1447

XYZ PDQ

How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to mean “an electoral contest.” Martha and Grant discuss why. And, lost in translation: a...

Episode 1445

You Bet Your Boots

You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more – and make sure to include a wide variety of publications. But what if you just don’t have that kind of time? Martha and Grant...